|Binomial name||Myrica cerifera|
Other Common Names:
The other common names for the shrub bayberry are American Bayberry,Arbe a Suif,Bayberry Bush, Bayberry Wax Tree, Candle berry,Katphala,Myrica,Myricae Cortex, Tallow Shrub, Vegetable Tallow, Vegetable Wax,Wachsgagl,Wax Myrtle and Yang-mei.
Bayberry belongs to the Myricaceae family and is closely related to the wax myrtle Myrica cerifera Loisel, a larger evergreen shrub or tree also known as southern bayberry. They have therapeutic properties and have been in popular use for long. The bayberry plant is named for the small 'fruits' or berries it produces. The berries are covered with a film of wax that is commonly used to make pleasingly aromatic candles.
Bayberry is a reasonably tall, branching, shrub or tree, attaining a height between 0.3 and 6 meters. The bark is light grey to brown, and in some species often covered with lichen and moss. The trunks divide into spreading branches that are green and hairy when young, but eventually take on the same hue and texture as the main trunk when mature. The leaves are alternate, glabrous, cuneate to lanceolate, acute, petiolate, the margin entire or sometimes slightly dentate, 3-8 cm in length. Bayberry is dioecious, the inconspicuous flowers appearing in springtime before the leaves have fully expanded.
Bayberry species are found all over the drier regions of continental United States, especially in the Florida panhandle westward to Texas, but have been found as far north as Maine and the Great Lakes region. Its southern extent includes Mexico, Central America and the West Indies, including Cuba.
Myrica cerifera is adaptable to many habitats. It grows naturally in wetlands, near flowing bodies of water, sand dunes, fields, hillsides, pine barrens, and in both needle leaf and mixed-broadleaf forests. The coastal regions of eastern and southern US is the main habitat of the bayberry. But it can sometimes be found as far west as Texas.
Seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame where the stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and over winter in a cold frame then plant out in late spring or early summer. Layering in spring. Prefers a moist soil. Grows well in an open position in a well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Thrives in any ordinary garden soil according to one report whilst another says that it thrives in an acid soil. Prefers a lime-free loamy or peaty soil. Plants can be evergreen in areas with warmer winters than in Britain. Some reports say that the plant is dioecious whilst others say it is monoecious.Many species in this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
The unisexual flowers of the Bayberry are in bloom between March to May.
Pests and Diseases
Eriophyid mite, Calepitrimerus ceriferaphagus is reported from bayberry which produces a virus like mosaic on leaves. Blistering of leaves is caused by breakdown of mesophyll and distortion of palisade and spongy mesophyll cells.
The dried bark of the root and the wax of bayberry are commonly used for its medicinal and commercial applications.
• Bayberry is mainly used for the treatment of colds, coughs, fever, and similar flu-like ailments and symptoms.
• It has also been utilized to help women relieve the symptoms of a heavy menstrual period.
• Bayberry extract has also proven helpful with digestion and helping to cleanse the liver of harmful toxins, as well as promoting increased circulation.
• It is also an astringent herb and helps to strengthen the immune system.
• It helps to fight bacterial infection and parts of the plant can be applied to the skin to treat symptoms of itching, sores, and even hair loss. Usually this is done as a poultice made from bayberry and other useful herbs.
• Bayberry tea can help with inflammation of the gums and throat, helping to directly treat sore throats or mucus build-up.
• Bayberry figured as an important remedy to remove the 'canker,' a condition that represented the physical symptoms of coldness in the body
• Bayberry bark is both astringent and stimulant, highly valued in debilitated and catarrhal conditions of the mucous membranes.
• Bayberry can be used to stimulate sluggish uterine contractions during labour while at the same preventing or arresting post-partum hemorrhaging.
• Bayberry is an exceptional useful remedy in the treatment of indolent ulcers, nasal polyps, ringworm, gum disease, leucorrhea and anal fistula.
• Bayberry's astringency is thought to help intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and mucous colitis.
• The wax from the berries is collected to make candles, cosmetics and soap.
• The dried berries are included in broths and used as spices.
• The berries are also used in Bay Rum and some hair tonics.
• The extract of this herb attracts male Mediterranean fruit flies, which may be important as a natural pest control.
• Myrica cerifera finds use in gardening and horticulture.
Its introduction into Western herbal materia medica however is once again largely credited to Samuel Thomson, who used it as his No. 3 remedy in his patented system of healing. Grieve states that four pounds of berries yields about one pound of wax (1971).
According to old stories and legends in the 1700's, just before Christmas, a small group of women in a little New England colony added to the oil of the Bayberry to their candles. Not only did the candles burn longer, but also they gave off a most delightful scent. So pleased were they that they decided to make a Christmas Eve gift of these candles to each home in the village and so the poem:
A bayberry candle Burned to the socket Brings joy to the home And wealth to the pocket Today folks still love to give and receive bayberry candles However, in order for these good luck wishes to come true for you the candles should be given to you as a gift. Once lit, traditionally on Christmas Eve, they must be allowed to burn out. You must not blow them out or all the good luck wishes will go up in the smoke and be lost. Should you have to leave your home or retire before the candles have burned out simply place them in the sink where they can burn without danger.